Saturday, March 4, 2017
Sweet Tweets Sweep
How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy! Trump Tweet, March 4th
Aside from the spelling/grammatical errors and the rather phenomenal lack of any substantiating evidence, the above Trump-tweet is classic Donald. As his cabinet-level resignations/recusals over questionable ties between Russian operatives/officials (especially master-spy, Sergey I. Kislyak, Russian ambassador to the U.S.) come out and the probability of an increasingly clear link between the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee and the Trump election campaign rises, Donald deploys his “accuse them of what they are accusing you” distraction/deflection technique. Facts? Who cares?
And while a vast array of Americans simply laugh at yet another totally fabricated “alternative fact” spews out of Trumpland, there is an almost equal number of Americans who take his utterances as gospel. Falsehoods as fact? Can we counter this trend? There are experts generating software that purportedly can sniff out unsubstantiated “news” stories, but those who want their news one way… well… they just don’t care to check.
“A University of Cambridge study devised psychological tools to target fact distortion… Researchers suggest ‘pre-emptively exposing’ readers to a small ‘dose’ of the misinformation can help organisations cancel out bogus claims… The study, published in the journal , was conducted as a disguised experiment… More than 2,000 US residents were presented with two claims about global warming.
“The researchers say when presented consecutively, the influence well-established facts had on people were cancelled out by bogus claims made by campaigners… But when information was combined with misinformation, in the form of a warning, the fake news had less resonance.
“Fabricated stories alleging the Pope was backing Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton sold weapons to the so-called Islamic State group were read and shared by millions of Facebook users during the US election campaign.
“The world's largest social network to help combat fabricated news stories, and there is pressure on Google and Twitter to do more to tackle the issue.” BBC.com, January 23rd. What exactly are those Websites doing to counter out-and-out fabrications-as-news? After all, there’s probably as much fake news these days as good reportage.
“Tech companies sure have been going out of their way disassociate themselves from fake news. And for good reason: There’s a lot of money involved. Google just released a report describing 340 instances in which it took actions against fraudulent news sites. All told, the tech giant says it banned almost 200 of those sites from using Google ads. The moves came in November and December, Google says. It was back in November when Google altered its AdSense policy, banning sites that ‘misrepresent, misstate, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose’ from receiving ad dollars.
“Facebook, too, is making additional moves to curb fake news on its platform. As detailed in a new report from the Wall Street Journal, the company’s software will now only surface topics that have been covered by a significant number of credible publishers. The move is designed to give added weight to stories that have been around for a while, in the hopes of quashing hoaxes. In addition – and this is a big deal – Facebook’s trending news topics will no longer be personalized to every individual user. In other words, Facebook is trying to poke a hole in the so-called ‘filter bubble,’ exposing users to a wider variety of sources, events and viewpoints. The moves come about a month after Facebook announced plans to hire third-party fact-checkers to vet news items.” CynopsisDigital, January 26th.
But too many Americans seem to love their “fake news” and are addicted to their “reality filters.” They seem not to want a fix or see any reason to contain Trump’s statements. Funny that the quest for truth is seemingly only coming from the private sector (or governments other than the United States), but it is now the federal government that has become the master of disseminating fake news. Beyond the Cold War propaganda that both sides supported. That a mass of people really want that false news to be true, intend to live their lives in reliance of such falsehoods-as-reality, is a testament both to their desperation is a world that seems to be passing them by and how badly our educational system has failed them.
Distrust is the handmaiden to fake news. It’s a mess out there, even as more people remain tied mainstream media (pejoratively labeled “MSM” by those who mistrust it); too many rely on untraditional, contradictory, unverified and often unreliable sources: “As President Trump continues to rail against ‘fake news,’ a new poll from Quinnipiac University indicates that while mainstream media may not have earned the public’s unwavering support, they trust it more than they do their president. Among registered voters asked who they trust more to tell the truth about important issues, 52% picked the news media, and 37% chose Trump. And while 50% of those surveyed said they disapproved of the media’s coverage of POTUS, 61% said Trump is mistreating the media.
“Conservative political activist James O’Keefe would fall in the minority in that Quinnipiac poll. Known for producing secretly recorded audio and video, O’Keefe on [February 23rd] released what he claims are 119 of over 200 hours of secretly recorded audio from CNN’s Atlanta HQ in 2009. The audio was provided to O’Keefe’s Project Veritas. ‘I want to start exposing the [overly liberal bias in big] media and their flaws,’ tweeted O’Keefe on [February 23rd]. ‘This is the beginning of the end for the MSM.’ No scandals yet, though - on the Project Veritas site, readers were asked to help transcribe and investigate the tapes, ‘in order to expose media malfeasance.’” Cynopsis.com, February 24th.
But the margins in this survey are so slim that another poll of register voters conducted at about the same time, by Emerson College, found the reverse – that the Trump “administration is considered truthful by a slim majority, 49 percent, versus 48 percent of registered voters who said it was untruthful. By way of comparison, only 39 percent of registered voters view the media as truthful, with 53 percent saying the news media is dishonest.” U.S. News & World Report, February 9th. That’s about “trust” and “honesty.” What is the public perception of “fairness”?
“A Wall Street Journal / NBC News survey found that 51 percent of Americans thought the press was too critical of the new president, and 53 percent agreed that ‘news media and other elites’ were exaggerating the administration's problems because they are threatened by the changes in Washington.
“By comparison, 41 percent said the media has been mostly fair and objective, and 45 percent disagreed with the assessment the media was exaggerating the situation in Washington. Finally 6 percent of Americans said the media hasn't been tough on Trump enough. The poll surveyed Americans from Feb. 18-22.
“The poll is the latest in a series of assessments handicapping how Americans feel about the White House's increasingly acrimonious relationship with some members of the established press.” AOL.com, February 27th. Trump’s response? CNN, New York Times, Los Angeles Times… to name a few… were barred from White House press briefings as purveyors of “fake news” that disturbed POTUS’ sensibilities. Trump’s base just cheered. Then the New York Times actually bought ad time on the February 26th Oscar telecast touting the value of “truth” in professional journalism. Its ads are now everywhere. The New York Times? Advertising that it is truthful? Really? Wow!
Old world establishment media, hiring the best and the brightest that top-flight universities can muster, steeped in traditional and hard investigative reporting with detailed ethics and first rate legal teams… are not credible to about half the country? But folks who just make stuff up or spread unfounded rumors with little or no verification have almost the same credibility? Houston… and every other city and town in the United States… democracy has a problem. The Fourth Estate has been seriously demoted.
Hey, Donald won. Lots of folks still hang on his every word. Is this the future of politics? That Tweet at the top of this blog tells you that nothing has changed since Trump’s campaign days. The president continues to enlist his populist following to spread his word and contain his “enemies” (mostly the MSM), creating “facts” to support his defense and enhance his attack, his focus on disabling traditional journalists to foster his propaganda. But the Trump camp has probably deployed some pretty scary democracy-killing tactics in his rise to power.
With investigations of the Big Russian Election Hack ongoing, with every American governmental intelligence agency confirming Russian governmental interference in our election process, and with European nations reporting similar interference in their election process, can this malignancy even be contained? Are we doomed to see which party can produce the most entertaining – and hence most prone to go viral – false news? Have we enabled foreign governments to infiltrate our purportedly democratic process? Have we divided ourselves into factions that will only watch, read and listen to false news?
It’s not particularly comforting to read all this, a litany of horrors that can only be amplified by an over-connected world looking for simplicity, shorter attention spans, a yearning for easy-to-understand solutions to complex problems and a public educational system that has been sinking under the pressures of “financial responsibility disguised as austerity” for years. We have become the laughing stock (as stupid, gullible and easily manipulated Americans) to most of the rest of the world, but what’s going on here is no laughing matter, especially to those who have studied history and understand where such trends can lead.
I’m Peter Dekom, and think we need to understand that such “alternative facts” are generally called “propaganda,” and we are rapidly heading towards a government where it may be dangerous to question these manipulative official utterances.